What is Naturopathy?
Naturopathic medicine (sometimes called “naturopathy”) is a distinct system of primary health care that emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process through the use of natural therapies. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) blend centuries-old knowledge and a philosophy that nature is the most effective healer with current research on health and human systems.
Modern medicine can accomplish things that people mere decades ago considered to be firmly in the “hands of God.” There are ways to treat cancer, delay what once would have been inevitable deaths, and help people endure great pain. However, as wondrous as modern, conventional medicine is, there are just some things it can’t fix. For some illnesses and people, the prognosis under conventional medicine can be grim and fraught with lifelong pain. Yet, that prognosis does not always have to be the same when one goes for natural pain relief under an alternative system, such as naturopathy
Naturopathy is a medical philosophy and system that is considered an alternative to modern medicine, in the same way that Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine are alternatives. Unlike the two examples, naturopathy is a much younger system, appearing on historical records sometime during the 1800s. Aside from natural pain relief, the system believes in using natural products and treatments to stimulate the body’s capacity for repairing itself. The methods and the system itself are considered modern and “young,” but the philosophical roots and theories stem from Greek, Chinese, and Indian philosophies and treatises on health and wellness. Naturopathy, like the more ancient systems it shares many traits with, acknowledges the connection between lifestyle, nutrition, disease, and treatment. Only in recent decades has Western medicine actually acknowledged this link.
The difference between the natural pain relief and treatments that naturopathy provides and that of conventional medicine is a matter of perspective. Conventional medicine will obtain data about the problem and take steps to alleviate that problem.
This is done without concern for the entirety of the person, and only lately have the involvement of other parts of the body played a role in diagnosis and treatment. Some practitioners and observers have noted that the philosophy and systems that form naturopathy really are not that different from the alternative medical systems of ancient origins, aside from the lack of what might be perceived as a “mystical” element.
Regardless of whether the patient requires natural pain relief or some sort of anti-allergic treatment, naturopathy focuses on the entirety and treats accordingly. For example, there is a theory that attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder is related to a lack of omega fatty acids in children’s bodies, along with the inability to absorb them properly from food. A conventional doctor would prescribe ADHD drugs for the problem, while practitioners of naturopathy would recommend a dietary adjustment. Granted, this approach does not always work. Then again, supporters contend, conventional medicine is not always guaranteed to work in all cases, either.
The underpinnings of naturopathic medical practice are in six principles:
- First Do No Harm – primum non nocere
Naturopathic medicine complies with 3 principles to prevent damaging the person:
- Use methods and medicinal substances which decrease the danger of damaging negative effects;
- Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; and
- Acknowledge, respect, and work with individuals’ self-healing process.
- The Healing Power of Nature – vis medicatrix naturae
Naturopathic medicine acknowledges an inherent self-healing process in people. Naturopathic medical professionals act to recognize and also remove obstacles to recovery to assist in intrinsic self-healing procedure.
- Discover and Treat the Cause, Not Just the Effect – tolle causam
The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, rather than eliminate or merely suppress symptoms.
- Treat the Whole Person – tolle totum
Naturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.
- The Physician is a Teacher – docere
Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.
- Prevention is the best “cure” – praevenire